I just got back from London where I presented two research papers (one with Sabrina Page and another with Ai Zhang) and also chaired a session at the EUPRERA conference. It has been a few years since I was at EUPRERA the last time in Barcelona, but it was quite the global experience and many research papers were presented that ranged from all topics in PR.
It was a full and eventful time in London, but the professional opportunities from this conference were extremely rewarding. It has been a few years since I was in London, so it was wonderful to explore and network over the past few days.
Here were some of the takeaways I had from my time in London:
A strong call for bridging between practice and research. This seems to be a consistent theme for the conference. We need big ideas that help address issues, challenges, and opportunities in the field. We have to go out our comfort zone and network and learn new skills to apply what we know and do in PR. These are all great – and I am happy to see we are having conversations about it, but conversations are just the start. We need to actually take actions to address this.
This means, not rejecting articles that are not supporting or focusing on theories that have been used for decades in PR. This means encouraging researchers to be explorers and expand the horizon for the field by integrating fresh perspectives in research and teaching. Also, we have to recognize we are ALL experiencing the same thing and are in the same boat. We are a community, and the more we are able to engage and help others, the better.
We may have to challenge our field both in teaching and practice – be an outlier and visionary, which can be both intimidating or challenging for people to handle. However, as I have mentioned in my classes and even here in my posts, you have got embrace the call to take actions. Sometimes it takes only one person to shift and make an impact in the field. Personally, I am trying to do this each and every day.
Creative innovation in education is essential. This is what really came about during the conference for me. We have to be able to not only help teach creativity, but we also have to be creative as well when we are approaching each of our duties and responsibilities as professionals and educators. I do not think we get as much experience (or encouragement) to do this as we should in our field. I know I have tried to think outside of the box when it comes to my social media class, and we are seeing the call for creativity and embracing it throughout our research, teaching, and professional practices.
I enjoyed chairing a session that focused on this, and what was really great to see was to finally meet some professional colleagues who I was connected with on Twitter. I had a chance to meet a few of them in person (so awesome to finally meet you, Helen!) and they were all talking about how 1) I do indeed tweet a lot and 2) they were able to follow my journey as a social media professor and see how I engage with my students in my classes. This again shows the reach and impact using social media can have towards integrating a community with not only your class, but also fellow educators.
Always take the extra effort to meet friends and professional colleagues IRL. I had a chance to not have one, but three meetings while in London for social media.
First, I had the chance to visit the offices of Hootsuite in London. I had the opportunity to meet up with Elizabeth Ward (who is fantastic!) and she gave us a tour of their new Hootsuite offices overlooking the London Bridge.
I am forever grateful to Hootsuite. They have been truly some of the best professionals I have met in social media, and I have been a fan of theirs for years. They are a core part of my social media class, and my ultimate goal is to visit them at their HQ in Vancouver. Thanks again to Elizabeth and Nick Marshall (who helped with the virtual introduction) to make this happen!
Second, I had a chance to meet up with a great PR professional and leading thought leader in the industry as well, Stephen Waddington. Stephen and I met a few years ago at the BledCom conference in Slovenia and he was the keynote speaker. His blog has been one I have required my students to follow and read, and his insights have really contributed to the field. We had a chance to catch up over dinner and discuss current social and PR trends. Thanks again for a delightful time in London, Stephen!
Lastly, I had a chance to meet Kevin Anselmo in person after several years of chatting about higher education and social media. I first connected with Kevin back in 2014 for a blog post and podcast interview on influencers. I was really happy to be able to finally meet Kevin in person after all of these years! Since we were able to get together, Kevin was able to do a podcast interview with Sabrina, Ai, and myself all about teaching social media and what we are learning from the conference. The episode should air soon – will keep you all posted. So great to meet you, Kevin!
Here are some additional takeaways I had from my time in London, and these are the things I will continue to do for future conferences:
- Really explore the city. There are many times where at conferences, you just are at the conference. Traveling to a new city is its own education, and make sure to integrate this into the time you spend at the event.
- Share your updates. I was not able to share as many updates from the conference this time around as I wanted to (had issues w/ the conference wifi), but you want to be able to show students, professionals, and educators what you are doing and learning.
- Provide resources. This is key – we are all here to not only learn about projects, but see what else we can do to continue the conversation.
Thank you again EUPRERA, Hootsuite, Stephen, Kevin, and London for making this a truly memorable experience. Hope you all are having a great day!